Did you ever behold the sight of an ancient super volcano? If you haven’t, let Valle Grande in Northern New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains be that place to take your breath away.
That’s what I experienced overlooking this grandiose valley, spreading like a monstrous carpet across the Valles Caldera National Preserve. These 89,000 acres of the National Park System was established after President Clinton signed the Valles Caldera Preservation Act in July 2000.
And so does the multitude of chirping prairie dogs scurrying across this vast caldera. Thirteen miles across, that’s what it said on the Historic Marker. I tried to imagine the titanic explosions that rocked the Jemez Volcanic Field about 1.2 million years ago; the mega volumes of red-hot lava streams, fiery boulders, and flaming smoke plumes creating this dramatic landscape until around 60,000 years ago.
Can you imagine? Gigantic explosions piling up 150 cubic miles of rock and blasting ash as far away as Iowa? It’s further believed that these explosions have been more than 500 times greater than the May 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens.
In the quiet of the valley, I couldn’t wrap my mind around such violent forces of nature of which some are still at work. The resurgent lava domes dotting the golden caldera floor landscape are evidence of magma below this dormant fire giant, which feeds the flourishing hot springs in the surrounding red-hot Jemez Mountains.
If you love the outdoors, every season has plenty to offer. From cross-country skiing, moonlight snowshoeing, and sleigh rides in winter, to hiking, stargazing, mountain biking, horse riding, trout fishing, and elk herds viewing in the summer, there’s something for everyone.